Happy New Year, readers!
There’s a lot to look out for as we begin 2021, including school board elections for numerous districts and how schools in the state will continue to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic.
As we try to forget 2020 and prepare for the onslaught of 2021, make sure you’re caught up on the news affecting Oklahoma schools with a few recent education headlines from reporters around the state.
Governor’s staff discussed a plan to reopen schools based on mask mandate
Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt has called for all schools to reopen for in-person learning for the spring semester. Meanwhile, Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister wants a mask mandate in all school facilities.
The Frontier’s Ben Felder reported that, earlier this month, staff for each worked on a proposed order that would have done both. But the proposal was ultimately rejected by the governor a day before the state Board of Education could vote on it.
Oklahoma schools will benefit from latest COVID-19 relief package
While the CARES Act was important for keeping schools afloat earlier in the pandemic, the new stimulus bill passed by Congress quadruples the amount Oklahoma school districts will receive from the federal government this time around.
Robby Korth with StateImpact Oklahoma reported this week that $650 million will flow into Oklahoma schools, according to an estimate by the Oklahoma State School Boards Association. That represents nearly one quarter of the state’s roughly $3 billion budget for K-12 education for last year, a number that could be cut because of state budget challenges.
Records show Hofmeister didn’t want to know about federal Epic investigation
A December report from Oklahoma Watch’s Jennifer Palmer showed that State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister told state auditors earlier in 2020 that donations made to her campaign by Epic Charter Schools leaders made her uncomfortable.
In 2015, just after Hofmeister had taken office, federal investigators were looking into Epic. Because Epic’s founders had supported her campaign, Hofmeister didn’t want to know details, according to records released by the state Auditor and Inspector.
The report also states that education department staff built what they called a “Chinese wall” around Department of Education general counsel Brad Clark, strictly separating him from all matters involving Epic. Some even signed an agreement that they would exclude Clark from conversations about Epic.
Oklahoma education tweets of the week
— OKC Public Schools (@OKCPS) December 31, 2020
Schools get a $54 billion lifeline in stimulus package — but the money won’t last for long https://t.co/efbE3DifJG
— Jennifer Palmer (@jpalmerOKC) December 29, 2020
Keep students engaged & learning with this list of kid-friendly websites! Each site features a variety of STEM-related activities that require a minimal amount of home materials. #oklaedhttps://t.co/uCF8JCQu0Q
— OK State Dept of Ed (@oksde) December 30, 2020